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Remains of a medieval manor house and associated dovecote 130m and 110m north west of Westdean Manor

A Scheduled Monument in Cuckmere Valley, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.7763 / 50°46'34"N

Longitude: 0.161 / 0°9'39"E

OS Eastings: 552455.05987

OS Northings: 99634.819678

OS Grid: TV524996

Mapcode National: GBR LSR.CHN

Mapcode Global: FRA C771.6JV

Entry Name: Remains of a medieval manor house and associated dovecote 130m and 110m north west of Westdean Manor

Scheduled Date: 10 June 1952

Last Amended: 25 June 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020368

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32270

County: East Sussex

Civil Parish: Cuckmere Valley

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: West Dean All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument, which falls into two separate areas, includes the remains of a
medieval manor house, formerly known as Westdean House, and its associated
dovecote situated within the village of Westdean on the eastern edge of the
Cuckmere Valley, around 2km east of Seaford. The monument survives in the form
of ruined structures and below ground archaeological remains.
Historical records suggest that Westdean was a settlement of some importance,
visited by Edward I in 1305, and one of several nucleated medieval settlements
within the larger manor of Wilmington. Sources indicate that the house was
owned during the early 17th century by the Thomas family, and was later in use
as a farmhouse. The building was allowed to fall into decay during the early
1800s and was finally demolished in about 1825. The later, 19th century, Grade
II Listed manor house is located about 100m to the south east.
A drawing of 1785 depicts the house and its dovecote at the heart of the
settlement, with the Norman church and adjacent 13th century priest's house,
to the north east. The house consisted of a principal, south east-north west
aligned rectangular range, with two projecting wings on its south western
side. Structural evidence suggests that the principal range is of medieval
date, with at least one subsequent phase of construction, which included the
addition of the southern wing during the 16th or early 17th century. The
south eastern end of the medieval range survives to a height of about 6m.
This flint-faced and stone-dressed wall was subsequently pierced by two large
windows, now blocked, which lit the first and ground floor levels of the two
storey building. The southern end of the south western wall of the manor
house was partly rebuilt in Tudor brick, and a substantial portion of this
survives. Further contemporary brickwork also exists within the small square
structure, built onto the southern corner of the house, and this is thought to
represent the remains of the southern Tudor wing. This structure is Listed
Grade II. The lower, flint courses of the south western wall of the manor
house, including a chamfered stone plinth, were retained within a later garden
wall, which extends beyond the surviving stone quoins which represent the
north western corner of the manor house. The line of the wall is broken at
one point by a later garden doorway, and is flanked on its south western side
by a terrace garden. The terrace is raised approximately 2m above the ground
level to the west, from which it can be reached by brick steps, and is
retained by brick wall constructed on lower courses of flint. This wall is
Grade II Listed. The garden is likely to contain further buried remains
associated with the manor house. There are no above-ground remains of the
north eastern and north western walls of the house, but evidence of these will
survive in buried form.
Subsequent additions to the upstanding remains include a low gabled building
which was added to the south eastern corner of the house at a later date, and
this continues the line of the south eastern wall of the house.
Medieval pottery was recovered from the area during small scale excavations in
1972, and further, as yet unidentified remains of the house can be expected to
extend beyond the boundaries of the monument, and may survive within and
beneath the surrounding structures.
Situated approximately 10m to the south of the manor house is a contemporary,
medieval dovecote, which is Listed Grade II. The circular building measures
around 6m in diameter and survives to a height of about 4.5m. Its substantial,
flint-faced walls, up to 1m thick, are pierced on the eastern side by a stone
four-centre arched doorway. In a similar fashion to the south western wall of
the manor house, a chamfered stone plinth runs around the external wall of the
dovecote, to a height of about 1m above the surrounding ground surface. The
conical roof of the dovecote has now been lost, and its interior is open to
the sky. Built around the interior walls is an unusual arrangement of three,
double rows of nesting boxes separated by bands of flint and rubble. Below
each tier of nests, a projecting chalk block functioned as an alighting
platform. Some of the nests were later repaired in brick, and the wall tops
capped with slates.
The 18th-19th century garden walls and outbuildings, which extend into the
area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, except those containing
in situ medieval or Tudor fabric which are included in the scheduling. The
following items are also excluded from the scheduling: the modern oil tank,
boiler room and associated chimney within the dovecote; all garden ornaments;
paths and fence posts. However, the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the East Wessex sub-Province of the south-eastern
Province, an area in which settlement characteristics are shaped by strong
contrasts in terrain. This is seen in the division between the chalk Downs,
where chains of nucleated settlements concentrate in the valleys, and the
Hampshire Basin, still dominated by the woodlands and open commons of the
ancient New Forest, where nucleated sites are largely absent. Along the
coastal strip extending into Sussex are more nucleations, while in Hampshire
some coastal areas and inland valleys are marked by high densities of
dispersed settlement, much of it post-medieval.
The Coastlands local region extends from a flat plain inland of Selsey Bill to
low chalk cliffs east of Brighton. The roots of settlement are extremely
ancient, and late 18th century maps suggest a balanced mixture of farmsteads,
hamlets and villages, concentrated in the western portion of the region.

The remains of a medieval manor house and associated dovecote 130m and 110m
north west of Westdean Manor, which formed the core of a medieval settlement,
represent the predominant, nucleated form of medieval rural settlement within
the Coastlands local region. The deserted part of the settlement, represented
by the ruined manor house and associated dovecote, survives comparatively well
in the form of standing architectural fragments and below ground
archaeological remains. Although partly incorporated within the outbuildings
and grounds of the adjacent, post-medieval house, the site remains largely
undisturbed by subsequent development and will retain archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the exact form, development and date of the
house. This give a valuable insight into the economy and way of life of its

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cooper, G M, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in On an ancient Rectory House in the parish of West Dean, , Vol. 3, (1850), 16
Grimm, S H, Westdean Manor, (1785)
Grimm, S H, Westdean Manor, (1785)

Source: Historic England

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